‘It's a pretty big day’
A dream came true on Veterans Day 2019, Monday, Nov. 11, in Blooming Prairie with the dedication of the Blooming Prairie Veterans Memorial.
"It's a pretty big day," said Veterans Memorial Committee Chairman Tom Peterson, overcome with prideful emotion.
"This day has been a long time coming," said Peterson as he addressed a crowd of over 300 who came to celebrate the dedication of the memorial.
Planning for the Memorial began in 2014 with a goal of $250,000 being set to build the Memorial.
It took just over five years to reach the initial goal but monies have kept rolling in and are dedicated for other work and maintenance planned for the Memorial.
Peterson said, even with the dedication complete on this Veterans Day, the work of building the Memorial is not done. He said more pavers will be placed on the Memorial. Murals are also planned for the Memorial and the parking area will be blacktopped.
"We, in Blooming Prairie, are dedicated to honoring our veterans," Peterson said. Peterson's comments of dedication came indoors after the American flag and POW flag were officially raised on the site of the Memorial.
A large crowd gathered at the Memorial to watch the flag raising, led by representatives of the five Blooming Prairie service organizations: American Legion Post 52 and Auxiliary, VFW Post 878 and Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 52.
Representing the service organizations were: American Legion, Commander Bruce Kubicek; American Legion Auxiliary, President Becky Noble; VFW Post 878, Commander Brian Hoveland; VFW Auxiliary, President Joyce Johns and Sons of the American Legion, Commander Joe Motl.
Peterson recognized the Blooming Prairie Veterans Memorial Committee (The Committee of 7) consisting of Tom Peterson, Tom Walters, Ken Vermylyea, Marilyn Meshke, Sandy Jones, Fred Vokoun and Doug Miner.
Peterson also recognized the corporation board of directors: Keith Holman, Kurt Blome, Jaclyn Schlichter, Doug Miner and Tom Peterson.
Many contractors helped make this dream become a reality, Peterson said. He paid special recognition to: Owatonna Granite & Monument; Bishop Excavating, Inc.; Keith Johnson Construction; Lembke Masonry; Dapper Services; Krell Electric and Southern Minnesota Electric.
"It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with these key people," Peterson said.
He also recognized major financial contributors: Farmers & Merchants State Bank, Kruckeberg Family, Bishop Excavating, Keith Johnson Construction, Ricky and Nancy Hansen, Lembkes, Doug and Kristi Miner, Dennis and Carol Heimerman and John and Barbara Heerema.
The salutations continued with Peterson thanking Terry and Susie Boschetti of Idaho for their attendance at the dedication and for their donation of $10,000.
Larry Rowe of Metal Services helped design the Memorial archway which carries the declaration: "Freedom is not Free."
"Squadron 52, mission accomplished," Peterson concluded. The Sons of the American Legion Squadron 52 initiated the Memorial project.
Prior to going outdoors for the flag raising at the Memorial site, fourth graders gathered in front of the stage at the BP Servicemen's Club. Army veteran Doug Miner and Navy veteran Doug Johnson shared their military experiences with the fourth graders.
Miner quizzed the fourth graders about Veterans Day and explained that Veterans Day was first observed on Nov. 11, the 11th month and the 11th hour as Armistice Day and was fist observed on Nov. 11, 1918.
Command Sergeant Major Marcus Erickson spoke to the fourth graders and urged them to thank veterans for their service and carry it one step farther. "Look around the room and thank the veterans and then ask them what their story is," Sgt. Major Erickson said.
"Their history is your history," Sgt. Major Erickson remarked. "You will learn a little bit about our history that way," he said.
Fourth grader Derek Miner read a true story about patriotism, captured in an e-mail from an Arkansas teacher. See elsewhere in this issue.
Sgt. Major Erickson and Air Force Col. Cheryl Heimerman spoke to the group gathered indoors at the Servicemen's Club.
"This is a special day for us," commented Heimerman, a veteran of 22 years of service.
Col. Heimerman reflected on past wars, starting with the Revolutionary War, which saw 24,000 lives lost. She then mentioned the Civil War with 620,000 lives lost. World War I saw 53,000 American casualties due to battle and 63,000 deaths due to disease. World War II saw 420,000 American casualties.
"We are veterans and proud of it," said Col. Heimerman. "Be sure to thank service men and women for their service and don't allow their service to die with them," she emphasized.
"This is all about remembering our veterans," interjected Peterson.
This monument speaks to our past, present and future, said Erickson. "What you have done with this monument is huge," he continued. "It's almost heroism," he said.
"I thought when we were done, we were done, but we're not done," Peterson said. Blacktopping is in the future.
"Thanks everybody for all of those who helped, this was happy work," Peterson concluded. He was greeted with a standing ovation.